Over the past two years, the ministry of Reach the Nations in Clarkston, Georgia has grown from an idea into a reality. This is the result of more than a little hard work by countless people—both short-term and long-term—who have given of their time through prayer, hard work, and even just striking up conversations with complete strangers. A large part of this ministry is due to the aid of over 1,000 students and adults alike, hailing from many different cultures and backgrounds. The ministry in Clarkston is not the only thing that changed during each team’s stay, however.
These teams who came to Clarkston to help the local refugees found that Clarkston impacted them just as much as they impacted it, if not more. They found that it changed their view of missions, learning the importance of building relationship and earning the right to be heard rather than just sharing the gospel in a confrontational way. Kara Dees, a member of one of the teams from Georgia Southern University’s BCM, who recently visited Clarkston said, “Before Clarkston and RTN, I was able to almost justify not actively seeking people out for one reason or another, but when I was working with RTN, I learned that missions can simply begin with hello.” They saw the importance of local missions, seeing that the world has come to their backyard, right here in the United States.
They discovered that they do not need to cross an ocean or even an international border to reach the world. “I like that you can stay in the country while feeling like you are going out of the country,” said Austin French, another team member from Ebenezer Baptist Church who visited Clarkston in July 2011. Upon their interactions with the internationals of Clarkston, teams discovered that there was so much more to each and every person they met than just what they see and hear on the news. When reflecting on what she had learned about other religions, Morgan Walters, from Gilliam Springs Baptist Church, who visited in the early summer of 2012, said, “The Lord has changed my perspective to show me that they’re not necessarily scary like I thought. The people need love just like I did.” There are many more stories about perspectives being changed and barriers breaking down than just these, but the teams were not the only ones who learned and grew because of their trips to Clarkston.
God has greatly used many teams to grow the ministry of Reach the Nations, but after they leave, there is much more work to be done. The pastors of RTN as well as its members and interns have been responsible to follow up with the contacts made by teams, watering the seeds that were planted. They have been able to reach far more people and grow in relationship with these people who were primarily reached by the short-term teams. RTN would not have been able to reach nearly as many people had we not had the assistance of these teams.
A wonderful example of this is the story of a man named Alejandro*. He was met by a short term team when he had been in America for less than a week, and within one week, he accepted Christ and began attending RTN for Church. A Chinese girl from another short-term team was able to reach out to Alejandro’s roommate from China who spoke English. Abib*, an Iranian man was met by a team at the beginning of the summer of 2012. A strong relationship was built, and because of their efforts, RTN was able to begin to minister to him. RTN as well as other church organizations reached out to Abib* all summer long. In September, Abib* accepted Christ. These men and many others have been reached because of the many teams who have been willing to give up their time and energy to be used by God in ministering with RTN.
By: Mary Palm